A cross-border police operation has netted 46 suspects believed to belong to a loan-sharking and debt collection gang who mercilessly kidnapped and tortured their victims.
Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Ho Chan Nam said six suspects were arrested in Macao, comprising four mainlanders (three men and a woman) and two local men – a 42-year-old businessman surnamed Shi, a 34-year-old casino shill (扒仔) surnamed Hu, a 32-year-old salesman surnamed Zhang, and a 28-year-old jobless woman surnamed Han, while the two locals are a 29-year-old man surnamed Lei and a 38-year-old man surnamed Chan, both work as drivers. The Public Security Bureau arrested 40 suspects in the mainland.
According to Ho, after the PJ busted a usury case early last year when they arrested 16 people, five of whom are currently imprisoned, they discovered that a cross-border loan shark gang was involved in at least 14 usury cases in Macao, involving loans totalling HK$4.2 million and illegal profits of about HK$1 million. The PJ immediately launched a special investigation codenamed “6.03” to liaise with the mainland police on cross-border crimes.
Ho said that the PJ discovered that the gang had been operating since January last year. The ringleaders “managed” the operation remotely from the mainland, providing funds to commit crimes as well as assigning different roles to junior members.
The middle-ranking members were responsible for financing, collecting the usurious interest and transferring the ill-gotten gains.
The “foot soldiers” were tasked with looking for gamblers who wanted to borrow money, keeping a watchful eye on them while they were gambling and then collecting the usurious interest, as well as detaining defaulters against their will and using violence to collect debts.
The gamblers’ loans ranged from between HK$80,000 and HK$300,000, Ho said, adding that the gang deducted up to 10 per cent right away from the borrowed amount, while up to 20 per cent was deducted from their winnings.
Each borrower was required to sign an IOU and to hand over their ID card to the gang members. Ho said that the gang had 10 accounts in two VIP rooms and that the suspects transferred illegal gains totalling about HK$4 million through various bank accounts.
Ho said that if the debtors were unable to repay, they were detained in one of the gang’s five tenement flats in the city centre, guarded by the foot soldiers. The flats’ doors and windows were blocked to prevent the victims from escaping and to deter police investigation. Ho added that the gang members beat their victims with sticks or brooms, took nude photos of them and even forced them to drink sewage.
The gangsters filmed the victims being abused and sent the videos to the victims’ families to force them to pay back the money.
According to Ho, the two police forces decided to take action on 26 December last year. The PSB arrested 40 suspects including the gang’s mastermind across 11 regions in China.
The PJ arrested the four mainlanders in different locations in Macao, while the two local men (Lei and Chan) were apprehended when they were about to leave Macao through the Barrier Gate checkpoint. All of them refused to cooperate with the police. The PJ are continuing their investigation into whether more victims are involved.
The six suspects were transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office at the end of last month. They are facing charges of usury, money laundering and organised crime, The Macau Post Daily reported.